Parents beware, and fans of Walt Disney Co. (DIS) rejoice. Today, Disney’s new video game, Disney Infinity — which launched Sunday, August 18 in North America — will be released worldwide. It’s another step forward that should popularize near-field communication technology even more.
Like Skylanders from Activision Blizzard (ATVI), Disney Infinity pairs real-life toys with its video game world using NFC transmitters located in the toys, which connect to a receiver base. Basically, you put your Captain Jack Sparrow figurine on the base, and he appears on the screen, ready to swashbuckle his way through the Black Pearl as well as the worlds of Monsters U and The Incredibles. Other movie-themed worlds are in the works with future expansions, and players can create their own mashups of Disney characters and movie worlds using the Toy Box feature.
Keza McDonald of IGN calls it “both a childhood dream come true and a terrifyingly efficient money-spinner.” To unlock new characters, you’ve got to pony up the cash to buy more figurines at $12.99 a pop, or $29.99 for a three-pack of villains or sidekicks. Additional power-ups, new items and skins are activated when you place Power Discs (available in $5.99 trading packs) on the base.
This project isn’t Disney’s first time using NFC technology to immerse fans in the Disney experience. This spring, Disney started testing MyMagic+ wristbands powered by chips from NXP Semiconductors (NXPI) in its theme parks. These bands act as a hotel room key, debit card and make the wearers eligible to register for FastPasses to skip long lines. They also allow Disney to gather information about customers to personalize their visit if they opt-in.
The NFC technology powering both of these gadgets has been around for about ten years, but has just recently started to take off. And it’s not just limited to games — applications range from Blackberry (BBRY) users sharing documents by tapping their phones together to tracking wayward pets with an NFC-enabled phone and a special ID tag.
My sense is that these applications are just scratching the tip of the iceberg, and we should be hearing a lot more about NFC-enabled products as the Internet of Things goes mainstream. As Buzz Lightyear might say, “To infinity…and beyond!”
As of this writing, Carla Lake did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.